Today’s Muncie Star-Press reports that Ball State University has received a 5-page letter and a petition organized by the Discovery Institute, both designed to show support for professor Eric Hedin, accused of proselytizing for Christianity and pushing intelligent design in his honors science class at Ball State University. The petition, signed by 7,000 people, includes 1,200 “Hoosiers” (American slang for residents of Indiana), some of which are interviewed by Star-Press reporter Seth Slabaugh.
As expected, the signers praise Hedin and decry BSU for trying to curtail his academic freedom.
Many others who signed the petition don’t know Hedin, including Cathy Schulert, Muncie, a part-time receptionist at a Richards Restaurant.
“I don’t understand why the education system is threatened by an opposing viewpoint,” she said. “It’s a shame our educational system can’t consider two different viewpoints.”
Another signer, Spencer Locke, who until recently was outreach director at Muncie’s Temple Baptist Church and Christian Academy, told The Star Press: “If they’re going to take away every last bit of Christianity out of the schools and only promote an atheistic agenda, that’s a bit one sided. I just feel like the argument from the other side is, they want kids to make decisions for themselves, but if you completely almost criminalize any discussion of Christianity, theism or religion, you’re almost making the decision for them by almost saying it’s wrong to talk about it.”
Locke calls himself “a believer in a young Earth, and that we are created beings too complex to have just evolved. I am not convinced by any argument that has to do with millions or billions of years of evolution. It has too many holes in it.”
Monte Poling, the city manager for Union City and a lay minister, signed the petition because “this is more than just spiritual, it’s censoring what people can say, especially in a university setting. Wow, if there are things you can’t talk about in a university, I get a little concerned.”
He recommends the 2008 documentary hosted by Ben Stein called “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed,” which documents the plight of scientists and scholars who dare to question the claims of Darwinian evolution. The American Association for the Advancement of Science described the film as dishonest and divisive propaganda.
Once again, the newspaper’s coverage deals not with the facts of the case (what was in those textbooks that Hedin assigned?), but with the people defending him. The article, in fact, sounds as if it could have been written by the Discovery Institute itself. The single statement from the “other side” is the note that “the American Association for the Advancement of Science described [Expelled] as dishonest and divisive propaganda.”
And I suppose the University’s reaction to the letter and petition is a bit heartening:
BSU spokeswoman Joan Todd said of the petition, “There’s really no new information here, and nothing to add to what we’ve already said.”
I reproduce the letter, from John G. West, vice-President of the Discovery Institute, below. If you want the petition, I’ll send it to you, but you should have a good reason for asking for it.
Note that the letter claims these things:
- The Hedin campaign is based on “falsehoods.” I’m not sure what these falsehoods are. There’s ample evidence that Hedin’s syllabus was stacked with pro-religious propaganda, that there was no material espousing an opposing, purely naturalistic view (e.g. pieces by Krauss, Dawkins, Stenger, Carroll, Weinberg, and so on), and that some students complained about Hedin’s pro-Christianity views (“it’s not as if the world could have been created by some Hindu monkey god”).
- “Prof. Hedin does not teach ‘creationism’ in his course.” But of course ID is creationism: it’s simply old-earth creationism (except for young-earth IDers like Paul Nelson), and I believe even William Dembski has described himself as a creationist. The Discovery Institute likes to pretend that ID is not creationism because it doesn’t involve a young earth (see letter below). But whether God created new species or new mutations now or several billion years ago is irrelevant. Creation is creation.
- The letter includes several comments from students who liked Hedin’s course, but neglects to mention those complaints on RateMyProfessors.com that Hedin was proselytizing Christianity in his class. That is dishonest.
- The DI complains that the committee investigating Hedin doesn’t have expertise in his area (“the relationship between science and faith”), and is stacked with professors associated with scientific bodies oppposing the teaching of intelligent design.
- At the end of the letter, the DI also asks a lot of intrusive questions about how the investigation is being conducted, who else has been investigated, and what standards the committee is using to evalaute Hedin’s teaching.
Judge for yourself: